Category Archives: notable design

Notable Design: Bejeweled Blitz

Bejeweled has been around a long time.  Closing in on ten years, I expect.  And the formula has changed very little in that time.  The match three style of puzzle game that it spawned is pretty much everywhere nowadays as well. Not many people have tried to innovate on that formula (though there are some notable exceptions).  So boy was I surprised when I decided on a lark to fire up Blitz on my iPhone copy of Bejeweled 2.

At first it’s the same old thing, only with a twist:  You only have 60 seconds to play.  A neat little gimmick, and perfect for the kind of on the go game that Blitz really is.  Or alternately as a light time waster on Facebook, for people who want to burn a few minutes here and there without getting drawn in to a half hour long game of Bejeweled Classic.  But lurking beneath that surface are some small but important changes that radically change the way you play the game.

The major change is that you can now swap gems while the gems are still falling/moving.  At first I wasn’t sure this was any different, but then I went and compared and sure enough.  You can’t move a gem until everything has settled in classic modes.  Being able to swap gems while things are moving is absolutely important for the flow required to get a high score in Blitz.

Two other changes have to do with that scoring.  The first is that the game gives you a bonus based on how fast you match gems.  Matching gems without any pauses increases the bonus, and that bonus is added to the points from every match you make.  The second is that by destroying many gems in a single move (specifically twelve), you get a special gem which is a combo multiplier.  Destroy that gem, and every match you make has the points multiplied.  Each successive multiplier increases up to a max of 6x.

But it’s being able to swap gems while other gems are still moving that really seals the deal on this game.  It leads to a fluidity which is unmatched by vanilla Bejeweled, and completely rejuvenates the experience, making it more addicting than ever.  And that’s before we even talk about the fantastic social integration, which plots your weekly top scores against those of your friends, counts how often you get certain tiers of scores, and then finally, ranks you in a list against those same friends.

Ultimately, quite a staggering improvement to an already great formula.  If you haven’t tried it, you probably should.

Notable Design: Darksiders

Darksiders is a fairly by-the-numbers 3rd person action game in the style of God of War / Devil May Cry.  However, as I play it, I’m seeing some nice subtle design tweaks that make it stand out against the games from which it obviously drew inspiration.

Particularly, the way the instant kills work.  To pull off an instant kill, you simply need to press B when in range of a stunned or vulnerable enemy.  Somewhat like God of War or Assassin’s Creed 2, but unlike God of War, there’s no quick time events involved. Where it differentiates itself is that you can interrupt a combo in progress to start an instant kill, and you can chain instant kills together as part of the combo system.  This leads to some great moments, like when you get mobbed by winged enemies who are easily killed.  You can actually jump once, and just keep aiming and hitting B to kill one after the other without ever touching the ground.

However, the cleverness doesn’t end there.  Your instant kill animations can actually damage or hurt nearby enemies if they get close to a swinging fist or weapon.  So instead of being locked in to an animation that only affects a particular enemy (as is the case in Assassin’s Creed 2), you can strategically choose particular enemies to kill so that you do damage to other nearby enemies as well.

But it gets better!  The game doesn’t control your motion for the entire length of the kill.  If your instant kill ends in the air, you can immediately chain it in to any downward or in-air attack that you have available to you.  A lot of other games of this type controls your motion from start to finish, limiting your ability to provide input before your character returns to the idle state.

These sets of rules all work together to great an instant kill system which is seamless with the rest of combat, useful for more than simply killing individual enemies, and allows for far more skill than some of the other games allow.